New High Street will battle shopping 'sabre tooth tiger' says Mayor.

PUBLISHED: 17:08 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 15:55 16 August 2010

A NEW town centre will take on the sabre tooth predatory tiger of Bluewater shopping centre, claimed the Mayor of London Boris Johnson as he officially reopened Orpington high street with his MP brother, Jo.

A NEW town centre will take on the 'sabre tooth predatory tiger' of Bluewater shopping centre, claimed the Mayor of London Boris Johnson as he officially reopened Orpington high street with his MP brother, Jo.

The Mayor made the announcement as he stood with Bromley council officials and younger brother Jo Johnson - the Orpington MP - outside Barclay's Bank, in Homefield Rise, on Tuesday.

The £2.2million redevelopment, including new road surfaces and wider pavements for pedestrians, was funded partly by Transport for London (TFL) and by £1million from Bromley council.

Speaking to the crowd gathered at the ceremony Mr Johnson said: "It is wonderful to be in the constituency of my younger, fitter, taller altogether better-looking brother Joseph.

"This is a great example of where good design can re-invent and revitalise a street which previously pitted pedestrian against driver. Now it encourages both to respect each other in a new, attractive and safe environment.

"I am confident that improvements like these will increase business for local traders as people are attracted to this impressive and transformed town centre - this is just the sort of project my Great Outdoors programme was established to support."

Invoking the memory of evolutionist Charles Darwin, who lived in nearby Down House, Downe, when he devised his theory of evolution, the Mayor of London said: "Just as early mankind developed opposable thumbs to see off the challenge of bigger mammals, so Orpington has this brilliant and devastating response to the great sabre tooth predatory tiger of the Bluewater shopping centre."

The work took six months to complete and some traders complained that traffic restrictions in the High Street during the work had put off customers.

Speaking from his business Groom Barbers as Boris Johnson sipped tea next door, Louis Loizou said: "I will wait and see if business picks up, it is early days yet. Some people who went elsewhere while the work was going on may have got used to it there."

The other Johnson brother, Jo, MP for Orpington, welcomed the new features, while recognising that they took time to come: "It has been a long wait and it has been a tough time for all traders but it has been worth it.

"Empty shops are filling up, we now have an empty rate of nine per cent, down from 12 per cent in December 2009."

Mr Johnson stressed that investment is the key to keeping the suburbs alive.

He said: "You have got to invest in the things that make London and Orpington competitive in the long term. It's about boosting the economic attractiveness of outer London.

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